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Exclusive Interview: Learning More About Nikitaa's New Song "Clutch"

Welcome, Nikitaa! We love that we get the chance to talk about your recent release, "Clutch". With the release being so incredibly fresh, how do you feel your listeners internalized the song? Were you hoping for a certain kind of response from the music scene with the release of "Clutch", as well as its music video?

Thank you so much for having me! I tend to not have expectations for a specific response when I release music. I feel like it creates an unnecessary sense of pressure around a process that should feel light, fun, and enjoyable even if it is my "work". I tend to focus on translating the message I want to deliver into the song and the visuals and then leave the rest up to the listeners. Once a song is out it doesn't just belong to me, after all. It now belongs to everyone who listens to it. I was, however, kind of nervous when it came to the music video. This was my first music video for any of my English releases and it happened to be shot at home during the lockdown on an iPhone with the help of my family. It was the first time I was fully directing and editing a video for release and I just wanted to do the song justice. So far, the reaction has been super duper positive: listeners and my peers really love the song and were taken aback with the quality and execution of the video! It seems like people really understand what Clutch stands for - feminine confidence, boldness, and sensual agency. And moreover, they've really been enjoying it! That's all I could ask for.

When you were creating the music video for "Clutch", how did you go about matching the visuals with the ambiance the track brings to light?

Honestly, I had to work with what I had. I'm currently in Mumbai, and the lockdown here is very very strict. I had no way of leaving the house or having anybody over to assist. All I had at home to shoot was a ring light with 3 different warm settings, my brother's gimble to set my iPhone into and my family to help out. It's great in a way that I got to do this at home though, cause I had access to my own, my mother's, and my sister-in-law's closet. So when it came down to styling I got to be pickier. With all of that being said, having restrictions wasn't a bad thing. It made decisions like where to shoot and what kind of shots I wanted pretty easy. I wanted the video and my performance to exude confidence and sensuality without really being too over the top, and so I really focused on that. I felt like the vocal delivery on the song teases you, is flirty, and has a confidence that speaks for itself. And so I wanted the visuals to do the same thing.

Knowing how expressive your sound is, as well as how diversified it's designed, are you able to explain to our listeners on how you constructed your sound to house components of both contemporary pop soundings, as well as the classic sounds from your childhood? 

Of course! My sound is definitely something my producer Mukund Komanduri also deserves immense credit for. Over the past three years, we've really been on a collective journey (and still are) to flesh it out to the best of our abilities. There are certain elements that I love to incorporate that remind me of the sounds of my childhood, as you've so perfectly put it. I've always been drawn to Indian percussion instruments like the tabla, pakhawaj, and nagara. I've also always loved the sound and textures that Indian string instruments bring - like the sitar, santoor, tanpura, and oud (that last one is more of a middle eastern instrument). Of course, we created Clutch and a lot of my upcoming discography while sitting in LA and so we didn't necessarily have the kind of access to real-time versions of these instruments or their players as we'd have liked. And so we primarily took samples when it came to Indian percussions and chopped them up or reconstructed them to tailor them to the music we were making. For strings, appropriate samples are harder to get to, but Mukund found ways to manipulate the guitar to either sound similar to those instruments or come up with riffs and melodies that echoed those normally played on the string instruments I mentioned above. I also trained in Indian classical vocals as a child, and that training definitely sneaks into some of my melodies.

All of that being said, the percussive elements in Clutch - specifically the chorus and post-chorus prominently contain the tabla and a little peek from the pakhawaj as well, and a lot of the riffs in the chorus and post-chorus were created to echo both melodically and sonically some of the string instruments mentioned above. We finished it off with a couple of vocal samples (you can hear it from the very beginning of the song, one of them being my own as I speak in Hindi) that we used a few different ways to accentuate the soundscape we were creating.

My sound is definitely a blend of RnB, Pop, and some Trap elements here and there - and it's not ever complete to me without that inclusion of the sounds I was used to hearing growing up. But this combination in and of itself is something we've all heard in the past (most famously: Timbaland's Indian Flute, Bombay, etc). And so I wanted to bring some freshness to it and a different perspective - which was "what would it sound like if an actual Indian girl reclaimed that aesthetic and made it her absolute own?" It hadn't really been done before. And that's kind of always been my goal. My music is as much about the reclamation of something some commercial artists in the west have previously exploited as it is about creating a soundscape for myself that accurately represents who I am, which is this blend of two very different cultures. As a result, even though redefinition was on my mind while crafting my aesthetic sonically, it has become what you hear now - commercial, yes, but absolutely unique at the same time, and nothing like any of its predecessors.

We appreciate the time, Nikitaa! Where can listeners expect to hear your Goddess Pop sound extending to from here? 

Again, thank you so much for having me! My vibe and intention have always been to empower womxn and femmes through my music and my journey, as well as create the sonic space I was talking extensively about just before this. I intend to take my listeners deeper and deeper into this space, and actually have several releases lined up this year that I'm really excited to share. I've always aimed to leave my listeners with a dose of sass and confidence, and I intend to keep doing that. We're gonna delve deeper into the Goddess aspect of things over the next two releases to follow for sure! And I'm really excited about it! I've also been working on incorporating more of my native languages (which are Hindi and Punjabi) into my music long term, and I'm looking to build this world of Nikitaa and Goddess Pop accordingly so that I can eventually share those songs and that linguistic blend with the world! 

Listen to Nikitaa here.



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